Editing. Culling. Selecting. Curating.
All words for the same thing. And, all words that I forgot to discuss.
I come from a different time. A time when less was more. A time when using a film camera meant additional cost with every picture I took. When I last used a lot of color slide film on an assignment the rough cost for film and processing was $15.00 a roll. Think about it this way. For a large assignment with multiple shooting days I might shoot about 100 rolls of film. Simple multiplication says that film and processing cost $1500.00. That was fine if my client paid the bill. It was a big investment if I was shooting for myself or for my stock archives. So, like many photographers of the era, I shot less and made each picture count.
Things have changed.
Once you’ve paid for your investment in camera gear, and peripheral gear like SD cards, a computer, an external drive and all the rest, taking pictures is essentially free.
You might still have to replace some items. USB cables go bad. SD cards break. You will eventually fill your external hard drive. Cloud services cost money, either yearly or monthly. You might have to upgrade your photo software. And, eventually you will want newer and different camera gear.
But, you are not paying to take a picture.
So, you take a lot of pictures. Everybody does. For instance, Getty Images photographers produced 1.5 million images during the 2016 Olympics. Most bigger magazine assignments generate at least 2,000 images. Even newspaper assignments produce hundreds of images.
And, it shows.
On any given day, in almost any newspaper website in the country or the world, you might see 20 or more pictures in some kind of slide show that work with one story. One story. Yes. Twenty images for one story. That’s a lot of pictures. Too many pictures.
In the old days, we worked for one great storytelling picture. Today, photographers spray and pray. There is no decisive moment because the photographer wasn’t looking for one. To me, that many pictures is just plain old boring. You have to wade through similar images that were included just to add weight to the slide show.
Bloggers do it too. I read a lot of blogs these days. Often it seems like the blogger thinks if the picture is sharp and in focus than they should publish it without giving any thought to the subject matter.
What does it add to the blog? What does redundancy in pictures take away from the blog?
If you are trying to tell a picture story that’s one thing.
Classic picture stories are photographed with intent. There is a philosophy behind producing and culling images. The story can be structured along the lines of a film. Beginning, middle and end. Or, it can be a process. Instructive. Or, it can go from big to little. Or, little to big.
Most stories can be told in about five pictures or so. Unless you have worked on it for a long time or you are a helluva photographer, more pictures probably hurts more than it helps. More pictures confuse your readers. They have no idea which of the pictures is most important to your take. It may appear that you don’t either.
Most of us make single images most of the time. We don’t think in long stories. So, publish a single image instead of ten and making the reader guess which one you think is best.
Like anything, learning to edit, culling or curating, takes time and study. If you are serious about it, a large part of your life should be about pictures. Look at pictures. Read photography books. Look around online. Think about pictures. Don’t just look at current work. Look into history. Learn about the legends of photography. See what they did. How they thought.
Make sure whatever you look at is about pictures. Not gear. Many websites and paper magazines get hung up on gear. There’s a big reason for that. Well, two reasons. Many photographers have GAS. Gear Acquisition Syndrome. They think more, more, more.
There is another reason as well. A more primary one in publishing. Write an article about a certain piece of gear and sell an ad for that same certain piece of gear. It’s a business.
If you need help selecting pictures, ask for it. Even a non-photo person can express an opinion about a picture. At the end of the day, culling your work to its barest bones will make you look like a great photographer rather than an ordinary one.
The pictures. These are as fresh as they could be. I made them around 8am this morning. There is a lesson in them for you. Normally, in a case like this, I would only publish one of the two. But, which one?
The bottom picture is a great background. You could tone it back a little and lay type on it. Or, place other pictures on it.
The top picture stands on its own. I like it because of the contrast between the tree roots and the leaves. All those leading lines going off in every direction makes the image a little chaotic. That’s how I think of fall. Especially in Southeastern Louisiana. I just read one of those meme things about the state. It said something like, “People think we don’t have four seasons in Louisiana. That’s not true. We just have them all in one day.” Chaos.
My selection if I were using only one picture out of about the 30 that I shot, is the top image. You may have other thoughts. Please us why. Or, why not.
One more thing. I’m about done with the general photo tutorial. But, I’m not finished entirely. Where it goes from here is up to you. Ask questions. Anything about photography is fine. I’ll answer even the most specific question in a blog form.
There’s a lot more to talk about. Art. Composition. Color theory and so on. Let’s make this a little interactive. You choose.